East vs West Coast & Handling Oysters

While all oysters have about the same texture (plump and springy), environmental differences manifest in the oysters' flavor, which range from briny to creamy to rusty to sweet to cucumber-y, depending on the type of oyster. Here are the key differences between East Coast vs. West Coast oysters:

East Coat

There is just one species of Atlantic oyster: the Atlantic Oyster which makes up about 85 percent of oysters harvested in the US. Within the Atlantic Oyster species there are numerous types of oysters — for example, Blue Point, Delaware, or Beau Soleil

Taste: Briny and savory (not sweet)
Size/Shell: Shaped like a teardrop with ridges
Nutrition: For East Coast oysters, 3oz of meat contains the following:

  • Calories: 70
  • Fat: 2 g (3% RDV)
  • Saturated fat: 0.5 g (3% RDV)
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 30 mg (10% RDV)
  • Sodium: 140 mg (6% RDV)
  • Carbs: 6 g (2% RDV)
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Vitamin A: 2% RDV
  • Vitamin C: 8% RDV
  • Calcium: 4% RDV
  • Iron: 35% RDV
  • Selenium: 90% RDV


West Coast

There are three species of oysters categorized as Pacific oysters: Pacific Oysters, Kumamoto Oysters, and Olympia Oysters. Within each species there are numerous types of oysters.

Pacific Oysters:

Taste: Sweet and buttery, with a fruity finish

Size/Shell: Fluted, jagged, and rough; largest shell of all Pacific oysters

Kumamoto Oysters:

Taste: Sweet and nutty

Size/Shell: Mid-sized bowl-shaped shell

Olympia Oysters:

Taste: Coppery-flavored

Size/Shell: Tiny, shallow shell

Nutrition: For all species of West Coast oysters, 3oz of meat contains the following:

  • Calories: 140
  • Fat: 4 g (6% Recommended Daily Value [RDV])
  • Saturated fat: 1 g (5% RDV)
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 85 mg (28% RDV)
  • Sodium: 180 mg (8% RDV)
  • Carbs: 8 g (3% RDV)
  • Protein: 16 g
  • Vitamin A: 8% RDV
  • Vitamin C: 20% RDV
  • Calcium: 2% RDV
  • Iron: 45% RDV
  • Selenium: 190% RDV


 Handling Oysters

The following tips apply to oysters from both Coasts, so don’t worry if you’re still debating on whether to select East Coast vs. West Coast oysters.

  • When you order oysters at a restaurant, they should smell fresh and salty like the ocean. The shell should be full of meat (i.e. not a “skinny” oyster), full of translucent juice (a.k.a. the oyster's “liquor,” which should not be cloudy), and the meat should be lean (i.e. not bloated). If the oyster smells “off,” is dry, has little and/or bloated meat, and/or has cloudy juice, send it back. Joe’s oysters should be alive but inspect them to make sure. First, inspect the shell; it should be unbroken and glossy, and it should snap shut tightly (no gaps) when you tap it. If the shell is compromised, discard the oyster and call us for a refund. If the shells are healthy, inspect the meat, which should be plump (but not bloated), tan in color, glossy in finish, translucent (not cloudy), moist, and fresh smelling. If the oyster is gray, brown, black, pink, cloudy, and/or pungent in smell, toss it and contact us.
  • Oyster aficionados suggest that, if you're new to eating oysters, start out with milder, sweeter oysters to introduce the taste gradually. If you're feeling adventurous, try a brinier variety. If you're unsure, order both!
  • If you’re preparing oysters at home, first rinse them thoroughly and use a knife to remove any “beard” (fibrous tissues emerging from the shell). Eat your first oyster without any toppings or sauces. Before you eat it, use your fork to make sure the meat is separated from the shell. Then slurp the oyster and its juice out of the shell. Chew the oyster and savor the flavor and texture. Make your way through the remaining oysters, adding sauces and condiments as desired.
  • Eating raw seafood is a risky business, since even a healthy-looking oyster can be contaminated with bacteria. If you want to take the risk, play it as safe as you can by eating oysters only if they're still in their shells (not shucked), and healthy. If the oyster has already been shucked, cook it before eating.
  • To store raw, unshucked oysters, use an open, unsealed container or mesh bag covered with a damp cloth. Do not store the oysters in an airtight container or they will die from lack of oxygen. Refrigerate the oysters in their own juice for up to three days. To store raw, shucked oysters, refrigerate or freeze them. They will keep for up to three months in the freezer; just thaw them in the fridge before cooking. To store cooked oysters, keep them in the refrigerator (not the freezer) and eat within three days.